Renovating is stressful and can put huge strain on a relationship, especially if you don’t take time to prepare to work together. Just check out this article from houzz.com that found 12% of couples considered separating or divorcing part way through their renovations. It sounds unbelievable but it happens! Both of us felt that we communicated well and were patient with each other during day to day life so we weren’t concerned about this before tackling our first reno.
Boy, were we in for a surprise!
While we didn’t get near the point of considering separation, there were definitely some tense times. We noticed the most common point of friction was how we approached the work. I like to jump in and just get started, whereas Denise likes to make a plan before any work begins. It was frustrating for both of us when we got to the job site because I just wanted to get going and feel like I was making progress, while Denise wanted to pause and confirm the plan for the day.
During our regular day to day life this didn’t have a huge impact. But when stress was high, these opposing styles caused friction. We both had good intention but were annoyed the other person didn’t do it our way. We have since learned the benefit to the other’s approach, and appreciate each other’s styles, but it took us some time to figure out why we were butting heads.
In considering this, we wondered if there was a way to prepare to work together and learn about your significant other’s style BEFORE starting a big renovation project.
We liked the idea of jointly completing a small project first but thought of another alternative that doesn’t require as many skills or tools: completing a puzzle.
Why? Because renovations are like a giant puzzle, with many pieces you need to fit together to finish it. As well, there are different ways to approach putting a puzzle together that result in a finished product. Unlike puzzles, renovations don’t always end up the way you think they will. However, puzzling together will focus you on a common, defined goal while eliminating the additional design decisions – which is a topic for another post!
To get the most out of this exercise, we recommend picking a puzzle you are not going to get done in one sitting. For some, that will mean a 300-piece puzzle, for others a 1000-piece or larger puzzle. Aim for challenging, not daunting – you want this to be fun and not a chore. As well, try to put a time limit on completing the puzzle. Perhaps, a few days or week. Below are some questions to guide you in how this activity can help you prepare to work together on a renovation. Use the subscribe box to get access to a more extensive list of questions and some guidance on how this challenge will help you prepare to work together.
Before you get started, here are links to a couple of our favorite puzzles (all suggested puzzles are available on Amazon .ca and Amazon.com):
Canadian? Click one of these puzzles:
American? Check these out:
Is one person more experienced in the activity? If so, did they share the knowledge or just move ahead?
Did one person look at the end goal and break the work up into chunks/steps?
Could you agree on a plan and follow through with it?
Did you want to play music, talk or work in silence?
Were you working independently or together?
Did one person sort while the other person fit pieces together?
Was one person better at fitting pieces? Building small sections? Bringing the sections together in the whole puzzle?
Did you want to invite others in to help or keep it as your own project? If others joined you, did it help or hinder the progress?
Were you getting restless at any point? If so, what was the cause of your restlessness?Did one person want to include snacks and drinks?
How did you encourage each other?
These questions (and the others included in the PDF) will help you notice differences. Please remember that neither person’s style is wrong or better than the other’s. However, one style may be more suited for certain situations. As you notice differences, consider if there is friction. Then, try to think about how those skills could be of benefit or be complimentary.
Prepare to work together, 1 piece at a time
While doing a puzzle together isn’t exactly like renos, it can help you prepare to work together. You can successfully complete projects together, even if you approach them differently. It’s the combination of strengths that will help you complete your project. If this challenge had some frustrating moments, it can also be insightful on how each reacts during times of stress. Take notice of how you work together and how each other’s strengths were used to accomplish the goal. Use this information to help divide the work of your renovation. It may be frustrating at times, but we hope you find this a useful activity for gaining insight into your partner, as well as yourself.
Click on the images below to check out other posts to help you prepare to work together:
What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself or your partner? Let us know in the comments!